The legality and justification of the Defense of Marriage Act comes into question as news of upcoming debates on the issue was released this week.
The U.S Senate Judiciary Committee announced on October 25th that it “will begin debate on legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage (DOMA) on November 3”. The announcement made by Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) comes three months after the committee held the first ever hearings regarding the possible repeal of DOMA.
DOMA which was passed in 1996 by an astonishing margin in both Houses of Congress and signed into law by President Clinton bans the federal government from recognizing same sex marriages and as a result denies these couples over 1000 federal marriage related benefits.
Chairman Leahy spoke of the issue early this month by saying,
“The march for equality continues, and now is the time to ensure equality for gay and lesbian Americans who are lawfully married. Next month, I will call up the Respect for Marriage Act for debate and a vote in the Judiciary Committee. The Respect for Marriage Act would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents thousands of American families from being protected by laws that help secure other American families. This is part of the nation’s continuing fight for civil rights for all Americans.”
In support for those who look to repeal DOMA, which defines marriage specifically between one man and one woman, therefore denying any Federal recognition of the thousands of same sex married couples in the United States, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced the Respect for Marriage Act in March of this year. The bill has already garnished thirty Democrat co-sponsors in the Senate, ten of them who currently sit on the committee. It is likely that the bill will be a key issue in the discussions to be held in the hearing as it offers a clear explanation of what a repeal of DOMA would initially mean for the states with legalized same sex marriage and for those that do not.
The debate over DOMA is one where both sides have expressed extremely strong opinions . One can only hope that as any repeal goes further and reaches the House and Senate floors, that the Congressmembers look at the issue not based heavily on one of personal beliefs but as a Constitutional issue. The issue at hand should not be about what the repeal may do to those who support it as much as it should be about what direct impact it has had on the American citizens who have been discriminated against because of the law.
Any repeal of DOMA is expected to be met with extreme opposition from the House Republicans who have already clearly stated their support for the law as they have taken it upon themselves to defend the law after receiving news that the Obama administration as of February of this year declined to continue defending DOMA. Despite the obstacles, news of the upcoming U.S Senate Judiciary Committee regarding DOMA is a necessary step in the ongoing fight for marriage equality, though most expect that it will ultimately be an issue heard and finalized before the United States Supreme Court.